How to look after your vehicle when you're not driving as often
As many of us are using our vehicles less frequently it can be easy to forget to check in on the basics or miss something important when we’re not driving daily or for long distances.
Just because our vehicles are parked up, it doesn’t mean they won’t encounter problems. Infrequent driving requires just as much as maintenance as usual. This blog will help you check over the essentials, avoid any unexpected challenges and keep your vehicle safe too.
Check your calendar
We’ve all said it, the days are currently rolling into one! But, have you checked when your MOT is due? Once your car is 3 years old, you need to have a MOT completed every year.
Whilst it’s vital you keep up to date with MOT’s for vehicle history and road legalities, it is not regular enough to ensure your motor is safe to use during the rest of the year.
During the current COVID-19 guidance, the Department for Transport announced in March that there would be a 6 month extension for MOT's due on or after the 30th March 2020.Whilst garages remain open with restrictions, there’s many checks you can carry out yourself to keep your vehicle maintained in the meantime.
Most checks are simple to carry out and it’d be a real shame if you ended up in an accident because of something you missed or forgot about, especially whilst we’ve got time on hands to check.
Aside from keeping up with your MOT’s, here’s a few things you should be doing at least every month to keep your car safe, roadworthy and avoid heavy costs.
Start with the basics
With more time to spare than usual, why not make the most of it? Giving your car a clean can identify any immediate concerns that you wouldn’t be able to see whilst it’s covered in dirt.
Make sure your number plate is visible too and your windows are streak free – no one wants a smudged window restricting visibility as this can be very dangerous. Plus, a properly cleaned car will give you that new car feel, just like the day you picked it up!
Check your lights
Yourself and other road users rely upon your lights for safety. To make sure you’re road legal and responsible you must check all of your lights are in full working order. This includes your brake, head and side lights, and your reversing, indicator and fog light too – it’s helpful to clean down your car before starting on the lights check so that you have full visibility.
Checking this one is ideally a two-person job, as it can be a little difficult to press a pedal whilst standing at the rear or front of your car. However, if your restricted by social distancing you can also use a reflective surface such as a wall, mirror or window to check your lights are working as expected.
It’s not just our days that are rolling into one, are tyres are still rolling too! Having the right tyres in good condition could be a lifesaver - quite literally. It’s very important you check your tyre pressure and for any obvious wear and tear.
Each vehicle and tyre have different recommendations based on weight and load so make sure you consult professional advice for what your vehicle needs and adhere to the guidance. Tyre pressure will reduce over time, even if the vehicle is not in use.If you’ve parked up and don’t plan on using your car, be aware that when left for a long period of time can lead to flat spots and your tyres losing their original shape.
This is especially common in older tyres so to avoid this, move the vehicle slightly every so often to avoid uneven wear.
Is your dashboard decorated in illuminations? If yes, it sounds like your vehicle is crying out for some help!A glowing dashboard isn’t something to ignore, it can lead to a costly fix which could simply and cost effectively been resolved, avoiding a trip to the local garage – which at the moment you might struggle to get booked in and potentially leave you without a vehicle.
If there are any warning lights on your dashboard, make sure you know what they mean. If you’re not sure what the light means, get your handbook out and check. Your dashboard isn’t showing any crying signs for help? That’s great news! But to keep it that way there’s still a few things you should be doing to prevent the warning the signs.
Checking your fluid levels is something you should be doing on a weekly basis. You need to check your oil, water and wiper wash and make sure there’s anti-freeze where there needs to be i.e. in the radiator and wiper wash.
If there’s an issue with brake fluid, most cars will have a warning light for this, again it’s time to check your handbook if your unsure!
Keep windows free from obstructions inside and out – there’s no point having gleaming-clean windows if they’re blocked by a stash of bags from your latest shopping trip.
Don’t forget to check your windscreen wipers. Make sure they’re working properly and that the wiper blades are in good working order – if they’re not, it’s time for a new set.
Keeping your car’s battery healthy during a period of reduced usage is vital. If you have access to a battery conditioner or trickle charger these are very effective methods of maintaining your battery whilst avoiding draining it completely.
If you have more than one vehicle in your household, you may want to consider swapping between the two to carry out your essential trips. Be mindful that turning your engine on, to turn it off again shortly after, or repeated short journeys will flatten your battery. Following the government guidance of infrequent shopping trips will benefit your car battery too!
Finally, if you won’t be using your vehicle, you’ll need to leave it parked somewhere safe. A private garage is the most obvious safe choice, out of sight and protected from adverse weather conditions which can damage your vehicle.
Don’t worry if you haven’t got access to a garage but try to park somewhere shaded during the day and well-lit at night. You might also find a cover to be beneficial in protecting your car from weather and passers-by, just make sure your parking permit is still visible where needed.
Phew, that’s all the checks! We know this may seem like a lot to do, but believe us, following this checklist will help to keep your vehicle in good shape and you’ll be thanking us for avoiding having to call out a costly breakdown recovery at home!